Staring at the all-new 2021 Lucid Air electric luxury sedan in person is like looking into a fountain of everything Lincoln could have been and sadly isn’t. The car is stunning, and it’s the attention to detail on touches around the car that make it special. One detail in particular surprised me, and I wasn’t the only one surprised.
The Air is covered in beautiful flourishes that blend with simple, smooth flowing surfaces, molding a low, wide and planted presence like a smoothly weathered cherry-red boulder. On the nose, four obvious design features — the small grille between the headlights, the lower vented cooling intake and the two side intakes that square off the edges of the face — are all functional.
The large lower intake is vented to control airflow through a specially designed and patented cylindrical cooling intake. It’s special for “spooling” up air in a cylinder through a tiny, thin opening near the bottom of the car using computer-controlled vents, and it accomplishes this with no additional engineering or powered mechanics required (except for the outer vents, which you find on many modern cars anyway). This setup supposedly rushes more air over the car’s radiators versus traditional ducting, and it improves cooling efficiency without imposing any additional strain on the car’s electrical system.
Lucid claims the Air also boasts the smallest production headlight bulbs on the market, which the design team pushed to develop to create a dramatically thin and layered fascia. If you don’t like the chrome finishes on the roofline, door mirrors and bumpers, you’ll be able to choose a “dark” option that Lucid is planning to offer. It’s a contrasting package to the current “light” theme on both cars photographed here.
The dark theme will not change the chrome finish of the trim above the rear window or the small chrome tips on the outer edges of the front and rear bumpers. Likewise, the Lucid badging on the hood retains its chrome finish, at least for now.
But those details are not my favorite. That would be near the back of the limo, stretching across the rear fender from the lower edge of the rear light bar. There was a lot of hesitation among the executive team over one tiny line in this area of the Air, according to my chat with designer Derek Jenkins at a Lucid event in New York City this week. He’s the guy who worked on the current ND-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata, among other things, before leaving for Lucid.
On the trunk of the Air is a seam at the outer corner of each taillight that separates the lid into two body panels, leaving about a two-to-three inch seam sort of floating in the middle of the car. Two pieces of metal joined at a seam like that are never going to present a perfectly curved line on the greater edge of the entire trunk lid, where it sits when closed against the rear fender panel, which is a soft, curved surface. To confront this, the design team introduced a small crease, about five inches long, that leads from the panel gap of the trunk lid into the bodywork of the fender along the line created by the trunk lid’s separate pieces.
Instead of trying to force two points to appear smooth, Jenkins and his team took the smooth panel that was in conflict with the seam and minutely adjusted it to make the light catch where the seam runs, cleverly helping that little black line disappear into the design.
As Adam Savage always mentions, there’s no shame in “hiding your crimes.” That trunk seam is a manufacturing reality, likely for a variety of reasons, almost all of them ultimately involving ease of manufacturing and saving costs. To complement it, instead of ignoring it or redesigning the panel fittings, is just smart design, making this here little crease one of my favorite design choices on a car this year.